ADdicted: Canadian Super Bowl 2021 Edition
Last week, I spent several hours putting together my Super Bowl post. I thought about what made a great Super Bowl ad, put together a scorecard, watched every single advertisement that has been released ahead of the Big Game, selected (and scored) my favourites, and then documented why I liked each ad.
This review of the ads that ran in Canada (but not in the US) during the Super Bowl won't take me nearly as long... because there aren't that many Canadian ads worth talking about.
I knew this was going to happen, of course. US companies spend millions of dollars every year to develop spectacular, memorable ads for the Super Bowl... but Bell (owner of CTV, who purchases the right to air the Super Bowl in Canada) "strongly prefers" me to watch the ads that Canadian advertisers pay them to show to me instead. Bell's solution is "sim-sub", where they remove all the US ads and swap them out for (mostly-terrible) Canadian spots.
I think sim-sub is terrible for Canadians, and so I usually find creative ways to watch a US feed of the game. But this year my children expressed an interest in making the Super Bowl a family affair, so I resigned myself to watching a Canadian feed to avoid the connection issues I've experienced in past years when trying to avoid Canadian ads.
I'll admit that I had hoped this would be the year when Canadian advertisers would wake up and say, "Hey, you know what? We're just as good as our American friends, and our agencies are just as talented as theirs... let's put together ads that are worthy of appearing in the Super Bowl!"
For the most part, that proved to be naive. But there were a few great spots to be celebrated, and they almost made up for the numerous CTV promos and terrible Bell WiFi Pod ads we were forced to endure every commercial break for four and a half hours.
Here were my favourites...
WealthSimple Tax - Noah / Frankenstein / Medusa
WealthSimple says, "Anyone can do their taxes." And that includes Noah (of Noah's Ark), Frankenstein's Monster, and Medusa.
This is a really great campaign that uses fictional characters and humour to illustrate very real questions tax-payers need to answer every year. Using a strong insight and funny creative, the commercial not-so-subtly suggests anybody (read: even you) can use Wealthsimple Tax to make filing easier. And it manages to do so without using a single (real) celebrity.
These ads are a perfect example of how Canadian advertisers can absolutely put together "Super Bowl worthy" ads if they decide to do so. And WealthSimple Tax deserves significant praise for making that decision.
Pepsi - Bublé deliveré
"Has anyone ever told you... you look like that Michael Bubly guy?"
This is a US-like ad that, as far as I'm aware, didn't actually air in the US. (I don't know why that's the case, but I suspect it might be because although these flavours are just launching in Canada, they might have existed in the US for some time... and you don't waste a Super Bowl spot on "old news".)
Bubly (the brand) did a remarkable job of leveraging Bublé (the Canadian singer) to help launch the brand, and they continue to use him effectively in this very funny spot. There's great product visibility throughout, the message that the brand has two new flavours comes through loud and clear, and the use of the celebrity enhances the spot instead of detracting from it (which is a mistake we often see in Super Bowl spots desperate for attention).
Apple "Behind the Mac — Greatness"
This isn't technically a "Super Bowl spot", because it's been available on YouTube since November 2020. And it certainly isn't a Canadian spot, because this isn't the type of commercial that's made just for Canada... and it's already been viewed over 22 million times.
But it aired in Canada during the Super Bowl. And since I love everything about it, I decided to include it here.
Why should you use a Mac? According to this ad, it's because great people throughout history have used Macs... and if you use a Mac, you might just one day become great too. From a messaging standpoint, the ad couldn't be any more clear. And imagining a new version of this ad 10 years from now with your black-and-white image included among other famous people is a fun and inspirational thing to do.
BONUS Folgers "Pants" (15s)
This is another ad that wasn't created for the Super Bowl; it was uploaded to YouTube in August 2020. But I appreciated seeing it because it was funny, relatable, and (thanks to the very familiar "Best Part of Waking Up" jingle) extremely memorable. If you're going to run a 15-second spot during the Big Game, it should definitely work as hard as this one does.
I also want to give praise to both the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, both of whom ran surprisingly effective COVID ads during the game. (I'd include them here, but I couldn't find them online.)
And finally, I want to thank all of those advertisers who developed Super Bowl spots for the US and then decided to also run them in Canada:
Cadillac's All-Electric LYRIQ (featuring Edgar Scissorhands)
Disney+: The Falcon and The Winter Soldier / Raya and The Last Dragon
More often than not, greatness is a choice.
The WealthSimple Tax and Bubly ads demonstrate Canadian companies absolutely have the ability to create and air terrific spots during the Super Bowl. We just need more Canadian companies to decide to do so.
Maybe next year.
P.S. If you watched a Canadian feed and want to know what you missed, you can see all the ads that aired in the US by visiting the YouTube AdBlitz page.